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Best Solar setup for 170" stealth Sprinter van life?

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  • Best Solar setup for 170" stealth Sprinter van life?

    Hey guys! Any advice for a stealthy van life project? I'm estimating I'll be using at least 2,300 watt hours a day. I have room on my roof for 5 100 watt panels. Thanks!
    Last edited by Dirtydeeds; 04-13-2019, 03:39 PM.

  • #2
    Originally posted by Dirtydeeds
    I'm estimating I'll be using at least 2,300 watts a day.
    That is meaningless, do you mean 2,300 watt HOURS a day? Bruce Roe

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    • #3
      Watt hours! Yes you are right haha

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      • #4
        I know it's off topic, but what's "van life" and why a van instead of an RV?

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        • #5
          Great Question! It's basically an RV but in a van. Reason why some would prefer a van to an RV is because it's more stealthy and allows for you to park in more locations without getting kicked out.

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          • #6
            Stealthy? The solar panels will be a dead giveaway, unless you get the side of the Sprinter plastered with the name of a fictitious solar company.
            I recently saw a YouTube video that says the days of the stealth RV are over, at least in California. It may be a teaser headline.
            https://youtu.be/qKcVD93aJ58
            Last edited by Ampster; 04-14-2019, 07:03 AM.
            9 kW solar. Driving EVs since 2012

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            • #7
              I have read of a number of cities cracking down on vandwellers. San Diego is one exception. They recently changed the law to allow sleeping in a vehicle parked.

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              • #8
                Originally posted by PNW_Steve View Post
                I have read of a number of cities cracking down on vandwellers. San Diego is one exception. They recently changed the law to allow sleeping in a vehicle parked.
                That is sad. It sounds like the rent is too high for people to sleep in their own bed.

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                • #9
                  Originally posted by SunEagle View Post

                  That is sad. It sounds like the rent is too high for people to sleep in their own bed.
                  The first two vandwellers that I met are engineers for Boeing in Everett, WA. They could have easily afforded to buy a house. They chose not to and bank $$ for retirement. One of them told me that he is on track to retire at 50.......

                  I need a bit more space than a van. I did spend 6+ years living in a bus with no home address. I loved the lifestyle. Unfortunately life changed and I had to give up the nomadic life....

                  When I was "mobile" I slept in my own bed every night. Right after I found a place to park.... I went to visit friends in Michigan, parked in their driveway and hooked up power. My friend just could not understand why I declined to sleep on the hide-a-bed in his living room and chose to sleep in the driveway..... Because I prefered sleeping in my own bed.

                  Back to the topic at hand..... I have seen a number of boats with flexible solar panels glued to the roof of the cabin. They have some downsides. With no airflow no the back of the panel they may not be as efficient as a conventional panel. The upside is that, in your application, they would be pretty invisible.

                  OP: Good luck in your endeavors. If you happen out my way, I have room in the driveway for a few nights if you need a spot.

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                  • #10
                    ...my Mother-in-law just can't, for the life of her, understand how her son-in-law won't sleep in 'her' extra bedroom, instead of his OWN bed in his motorcoach... but that's the way I am, too... I didn't 'invest' $150,000.00 in a 'mobile' hotel so that I could 'downgrade' to a mother-in-law's bed, right next to the mother-in-law's, and sharing the same bathroom, etc... : /

                    I use my coach for my own needs, regardless of 'where' I happen to be - at the kin-folks, at the outer banks, key west, Everett WA, walmart, lowes, or in the wilds of Alaska and Idaho... : )

                    as for Solar on your roof, I think you'd find the low-profile flexible variety a win-win - giving you a 'non-solar' roof line, yet a very positive power source for your off-grid times. Don't overthink the differences between flexible and standard, or whether your PWS versus MPPT controller will provide the 'most' usable power, but more of what makes easy 'cents' for your traveling and overnighting situations. You can easily fall into the 'overly technical' aspects of solar, controllers, and batteries, but get started with a simple system and you may find that it works just fine for your needs. Remember, too, that the battery storage is probably more critical than the 'number' of solar panels on the roof - no place to store the sun hours will ultimately just be a waste of investment... the sun doesn't shine at night, that's a guarantee.

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                    • #11
                      Sorry I'm late to the party, but a few thoughts:
                      • "Stealth" is what the kids call it but i consider it a misnomer. The principle is less "escaping detection" and more like "not being an obvious asshole." You can always tell a vehicle being lived in -- even if the vehicle appears bone stock on the outside, the USE patterns are a dead giveaway. No matter how dumb you think cops are, i promise they are not fooled by any of the "stealth" setups out there. They just have better things to do than hassle vandwellers (except in California; eff that place). Even without solar panels it's a cinch to spot a Sprinter that someone is camping in.
                      • 2300Wh is about 190Ah @ 12V. Energy consumption is very personal and I don't say this to judge, but that seems like a lot for vanlife. My daily average for two people in a 25' RV is 194.8Ah, and that includes cooking on an electric induction cooker, using electric hot water, and running an apartment-sized fridge. Before you spend time sizing a system, it might be worth taking another pass at your usage estimate or seeing if it makes more sense to spend money to reduce your loads first. Also think about how many days of reserve capacity you want, whether you will be driving (charging from the alternator) daily, and how sunny the areas you plan to travel in will be. As it stands, your 500W array won't be enough to replace that much energy consumption even in ideal conditions -- much less with the panels sitting flat on the roof.
                      • If it's important to hide the solar panels, consider 'ground deploy' panels. Move some of your stuff stored under the bed up to a roof rack / rocket box / hitch box, and use the space under the bed to store folding panels. Stood on the ground and tilted/aimed at the sun, they will develop more power than if they were on your roof (more "bang for the buck"), and since they hide away your van will show no sign of solar panels when they are stored. Downside of course is they are out on the ground when in-use, so if you're spending a lot of time in the city you won't get to put them out very often. But if you just sometimes go into town and otherwise camp in the woods, this can work great.
                      <link removed>


                      - Jerud
                      ------------------------------------------------------------
                      1220W array / 1000Ah LFP house bank
                      MidniteSolar Classic 150, Magnum MS2812
                      ME-RC, Trimetric, and JLD404
                      Full-time 100% electric boondocking (no propane, no genny) since 2015
                      2001 Fleetwood Prowler 5th wheel 25 foot, self-rebuilt
                      www.livesmallridefree.com
                      Last edited by sdold; 04-29-2019, 01:49 AM. Reason: Removed link

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                      • #12
                        Your link goes to a page that says...is coming soon.

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                        • #13
                          Darn it, thought I had the file hosting fixed. It should be working now, thanks for the notify.

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                          • #14
                            It worked for me, but looked like something that was really created just to collect email addresses.

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